What to do when your dog thinks you’re stupid

Dixie, the Golden Retriever, probably thinks her owner is an idiot. Photo by author.
Dixie, the Golden Retriever, probably thinks her owner is an idiot. Photo by author.

They aren’t the smartest animals, but their hearts are bigger than their brains

Dixie, the Golden Retriever, probably thinks her owner is an idiot. Photo by author.
Dixie, the Golden Retriever, probably thinks her owner is an idiot. Photo by author.

I have a Golden Retriever. And anyone who’s ever met a Golden can tell you that they are the sweetest, cutest, most loyal, kind and caring companions you could ever wish for.

But they’re dumb as bricks. That’s not a bad thing—it’s endearing, really. They run into fences and bark at mirrors, and if not otherwise preoccupied, absolutely love to put all sixty pounds of themselves in your lap. So, you can understand my shock when—after a week of close scrutiny—I came to a shocking conclusion.

My dog, Dixie, thought I was stupid.

“Really?” I thought to myself. “Me? I’m really the stupid one in this relationship? You still haven’t figured out what sand is.”

But it made sense: my dog has seen me at my worst. Bashing my head on cabinets, tripping on nothing, drunkenly falling asleep in places I shouldn’t—of course I’m incapable of taking care of myself. I can’t believe I didn’t see the signs.

For example: we go for a walk. A simple human-dog activity. I decide to walk past my street towards a public garbage can to throw out a baggie—much better than walking home with it, right? I can see it from my corner, it’s not even that far. So, we walk past our street, and I can only imagine the pure panic that sets into my dog’s heart.

“Oh, dear sweet kibble,” I imagine her saying. “The human has no idea where she’s going. She’s going to get lost. We’re never making it home. I have to do something.”

Which, of course, means playing dead in the middle of the street.

“Perfect,” she must have thought to herself, tail swishing across the pavement. “Now we can’t move. She’ll be forced to go home. I’ve solved it.”

Of course, this does not solve anything, and it’s only a matter of time before I tug her towards the garbage. “Oh no oh no oh no,” she probably thought. “I have to get her on the right track.” Cue my dog trying to corral me, jumping at my chest, running around my legs, and whining.

“Understand!” she yelled, barking at me. “You’re going the wrong way!”

I finally get to the garbage and dispose of our disposables. We’ve gone maybe five metres. Patting her head, we turn back.

“Yes!” she barked happily, tail high in the air. “Now to make sure we can’t possibly get lost!” This is the part where she bites the leash just below my wrist, takes it in her mouth, and proceeds to drag me home. She set a brisk pace—not stopping for smells, not even at her favourite sniffing spot—until we arrive at my driveway.

“She can’t possibly get lost anymore,” I imagine she thinks to herself triumphantly, sitting for her end-of-walk biscuit in front of the garage door. “Stupid human. Thank god I was there.”

Not to mention the purring. For some inexplicable reason, my cat tends to purr at the kitchen table. When he’s truly desperate, he’ll lick at the furniture, just to show how truly starving he is. Dixie likely watched this with interest.

“He makes noise,” she likely thought. “If I make noise, will I get food too? Humans always communicate with noise. They’re too stupid to understand that if I’m sitting here, it’s because I want food. I need to make noise!”

Luckily, this did not translate into barking. Just… purring. Dog vocal chords aren’t capable of purring, to my knowledge, but I assure you my dog is trying her damn hardest. Not a dinnertime goes by without this low, incessant groan.

“Notice meeeee!” it seems to say. “Feeeeed meeeee! I’m a caaaaaaaat!”

You may be shocked to learn that this method has proven ineffective.

But nothing—absolutely nothing—tops my birthday.

You see, I don’t like to show when I cry. It’s something I prefer to do quietly, and behind closed doors. But on my birthday, when I thought I was alone and was upset for one reason or another, I left the bathroom door open as I cried. And Dixie found me.

She stared down the hallway at me, her tail instantly dropping between her legs. Her toy fell limply from her mouth. This time, I can’t imagine what she was thinking—was I hurt? Distressed? Maybe too stupid to figure out that the floor wasn’t the best place to sit? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I’ve never seen my dog run faster than she did that day. She bowled into me with all her kinetic weight, her paws scrambling at my shoulders, tongue running along my face. It was a desperate kind of licking: like if she didn’t kiss it away fast enough, I would disappear. She whined the whole way throughout.

I realized afterwards, lying down with her on top of me—for she refused to leave my side—that yes, my dog thought I was stupid. But more important, my dog saw me as someone she had to take care of. Her faulty assessment of my intelligence came out of a place of love: a need to protect and communicate with me.

Yes, she doesn’t know what sand is. And, yes, she tries to purr at the kitchen table—but she’s a Golden, and their hearts are 10 times bigger than their brains.

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